Interactions between dental amalgams and the oral environment

Adv Dent Res. 1992 Sep:6:100-9. doi: 10.1177/08959374920060010101.


Dental amalgam fillings interact in a complex way with the environment in the oral cavity as they are subjected to chemical, biological, mechanical, and thermal forces. These forces change the restoration's appearance and properties, while metal ions, amalgam debris, non-metallic corrosion products, and mercury vapor are released into the oral cavity. The phenomena and conditions that affect the amalgam/environment interaction include the chemistry and biochemistry of the environment, formation of biofilms on the amalgam surfaces, existence of localized corrosion cells, galvanic contacts with other metallic restorations, abrasion during mastication, and synergistic effects of the different forces. Corrosion processes result in a degradation of the functional amalgam properties, while tarnishing reactions cause discoloration. Corrosion degradation of amalgam fillings is due mainly to localized corrosion cells in pores and crevices. Corrosion on occlusal surfaces is accelerated by abrasion during mastication, which removes the protective surface films. The average total amounts of metal species, including mercury, released per day in vivo from a restoration have not been determined. Much of the reported indirect evidence for high mercury release rates is either unreliable or controversial. A more detailed investigation is needed and will require the development of more sophisticated techniques of sampling in vivo, as well as both experimental and theoretical modeling in vitro.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Copper / chemistry
  • Corrosion
  • Dental Amalgam / chemistry*
  • Electrogalvanism, Intraoral
  • Humans
  • Mercury / chemistry
  • Mouth / metabolism
  • Zinc / chemistry


  • Copper
  • Dental Amalgam
  • Mercury
  • Zinc